(ORDO NEWS) — Astronomers are bewildered by a mysterious cosmic object that emits powerful bursts of energy every 18 minutes.
The unknown object emits radiation three times an hour at such an intensity that it is one of the brightest points in the sky – and, according to the researchers, it could be an entirely new class of space objects.
A team of scientists led by astrophysicist Natasha Hurley-Walker of the International Center for Radio Astronomy began a closer study of the object after it was discovered by Curtin University student Tyrone O’Doherty using the Murchison Widefield Array (MWA) radio telescope, located in one of the most remote and uninhabited corners of Western Australia.
“During our observations, this object appeared and disappeared within a few hours,” Hurley-Walker said in a statement . “It was completely unexpected and a little creepy because we have never experienced anything like this.”
Even more intriguing is the remoteness of the unidentified object from us.
“He [the object] is really very close,” she added. “About 4,000 light-years away from us. It’s in the “backyard” of the galaxy.”
Mysterious high energy object
“These are definitely not aliens,” said Hurley-Walker.
This is because the object emits an astronomical amount of radiation that requires a huge amount of energy to generate. In other words, there is too much energy for anyone to control.
Scientists have noticed similar objects called “transients” before, but this one is of particular interest due to its extremely fast “on” and “off”. Typically, transients are active for a few days and then “fall asleep” for months – slow transients. Or they turn on and off in just milliseconds.
The object’s unusual brightness led researchers to believe they were looking at something with an extremely strong magnetic field. In a new study published in the respected scientific journal Nature, the team suggests they are dealing with a ” superlong period magnetar .”
“This could be a type of slowly rotating neutron star that has been theoretically predicted to exist,” Hurley-Walker said in a statement. Neutron stars are extremely dense remnants of dead stars.
But no one expected that we would find just such a [neutron star], because it is too bright. Somehow, the object converts magnetic energy into radio waves much more efficiently than anything we’ve seen before.”
Now the research team hopes to recapture the object using MWA.
“Further observations will tell whether this was a rare one-time event or whether we are dealing with a huge population of unknown objects that have never been noticed before,” concluded Hurley-Walker.
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